Every sports fan knows that it takes a special kind of person to become an elite athlete. However, there is even another level beyond the elite. Some sports stars make history because of their individual achievements. These occurrences come in many forms and some of them are truly one-of-a-kind.
Today we’ll look at 25 athletes who made history with one-of-a-kind occurrences. Some of them broke sports records that were groundbreaking at the time. Others had a cultural or social impact that paved the path for others to follow. Yet all of these occurrences were clearly incredible and profound. Check out the list below via Yahoo.
25. Tom Brady (2021)
Everybody in America knows Brady because he is arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. It’s fascinating because he isn’t an exceptional athlete and never had the most spectacular arm. But his consistency defines him. He spent 20 seasons with the Patriots before he moved to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After winning six Super Bowls with the Pats, he added another ring in Tampa.
He made history with this achievement because no other player in history has won so many Super Bowls. Furthermore, he’s even won more championships than any individual franchise. It’s an insane statistic but just shows what a serial winner he is. Also, he helped the Buccanneers to become the first franchise to win a Super Bowl in their own stadium. Brady takes football to the next level.
An Olympic judoka and Strikeforce champion, Rousey was one of few athletes who were able to convince UFC President Dana White to change his mind. White claimed he would never allow women to fight for the world’s largest MMA promotion, but her performances and charisma made all the difference. She met Liz Carmouche in the main event of UFC 157 in Anaheim, California. This fight truly set her on the path to greatness. ‘Rowdy’ crushed Carmouche with a devastating first-round armbar.
Rousey changed the sport. While revisionists question her fighting legacy, there’s no doubt that she had a one-of-a-kind impact on MMA. Bizarrely, she helped to make this hyper-masculine environment one of the most equal sporting environments for women. Rousey defended her title multiple times before back-to-back defeats to Holly Holm and future GOAT Amanda Nunes.
Dempsey makes this list for a unique achievement. He was a placekicker for a number of NFL franchises including the New Orleans Saints. In one game against the Detroit Lions, Dempsey ensured his place in history. He scored a field goal from 63-yards. This was the first time anybody had broken 60 yards so it ensured quite the record for him. Before this, the previous record was 57 yards.
But this kick was controversial because of Dempsey’s condition. He had no toes on his foot due to a birth defect. As a result, he wore a special wedge-shaped shoe. Critics claimed that this gave him a unique advantage when he kicked the ball. The NFL even changed the rules to ensure that this couldn’t happen again. However, Dempsey will always be the first to score a field goal from this distance.
Blackmore made a massive statement for female jockeys when she won the Grand National. Billed as the world’s greatest steeplechase, the Grand National is Britain’s most prestigious race. The first race was in 1839. Almost 200 years later, Blackmore became the first female rider to win the coveted prize at Aintree. Pundits described it as a pivotal moment for women riders across the globe.
The Irish woman made history with her incredible victory and earned the respect of the racing world. Traditionally, horseracing is overwhelmingly dominated by men, but her achievement on the racecourse guaranteed her their admiration. A quiet figure, she allows her riding to do her talking. In the end, she rode Minella Times to one of the most satisfying victories ever.
History was made when McLaren signed Hamilton in 2007. The Englishman became the first black driver in Formula One history. But he isn’t on this list out of tokenism. In short, Hamilton’s list of achievements is stunning. The queen actually knighted him because he did so much for motor racing. His 2008 championship made him the youngest winner ever.
Then, Hamilton joined Mercedes and became part of one of the most successful teams in Formula One history. He tied Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles. Meanwhile, Hamilton is also a cultural icon. He is outspoken about equal rights and opportunities. Furthermore, he has many social media followers to whom he promotes culture and fashion. To sum it up, he has it all.
The Williams sisters are two of tennis’s most recognizable faces. Serena and Venus redefined what it meant to be a tennis player and changed the sport with their athleticism. While Serena outdid her sister, Venus made one piece of history that nobody can take from her. She became the first African-American world number one in 2002. This was an incredible landmark for the sport.
It’s important to remember that tennis was previously regarded as an elitist game. The Williams sisters overcame barriers and prejudices in their bid to make history. Soon they became dominant and won many titles between them. While Venus gave way to her powerhouse sister, she still has 23 Grand Slam titles to her name. It’s incredible how these siblings took over tennis.
Hopkins earned the nickname, ‘The Alien’ for a very good reason. He was incredible at avoiding damage and this ensured his longevity throughout his boxing career. As a result, he made history numerous times as he became the oldest boxing champion in history. He broke his own record on several occasions. Finally, at the age of 49, he did so for the last time with victory over 30-year-old Beibut Shumenov.
His counterpunching style was highly effective against aggressive opponents. This was because Hopkins was a very cerebral boxer. He knew that defense would ensure a long career and this proved to be the case. Nobody expected him to fight for so long but he managed to do so. George Foreman was previously the oldest champion, but Hopkins made a mockery of this.
McKee is one of the most exciting fighters outside the UFC today. The American MMA star competes for Bellator and fans love him for his aggressive style. He comes from fighting stock. His father Antonio was a successful MMA fighter in his own right. But between them, they made a unique piece of history in 2019. Antonio and A.J. fought on the same card on the same night.
They made history because they became the first father-and-son duo to win professional fights on the same night for a major MMA promotion. The McKees competed at Bellator 228. Antonio won his veteran bout after five years of retirement. Meanwhile, A.J. knocked out Georgi Karakanov in style. Bellator believes McKee is a future champion and a star, and they are correct.
One of the most renowned figures in sport, Ronaldo is a serial winner. He played for the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid with success before moving to Juventus. His achievements on the field speak for themselves, but that’s not the main reason why he is on this list. The Portuguese icon is one of the most recognizable figures on the planet and is incredibly marketable.
As a result, he’s the first soccer player to ever become a billionaire. First of all, Ronaldo made millions in salaries from his clubs. But he is also one of Nike’s most important brand ambassadors. The CR7 line is incredibly popular and has earned him a fortune. However, Ronaldo remains humble and ensures the comfort of his family before himself. Few people have achieved as much as him.
Many people believe that Simone Biles is the most important United States gymnast ever. However, Retton can stake a reasonable claim to this title. After all, she made history when she became the first female athlete to feature on the front of a Wheaties box. She became a breakout star during the 1984 Olympics. The combination of her winning style and smile made her a household name.
Retton was the first American woman to win an all-around gold medal in the sport. This was a phenomenal achievement. Between her athletic achievements and her pocket-sized good looks, Retton earned fame. She wasn’t the first female athlete to feature on a Wheaties box. But she was the first to earn front billing on the popular breakfast cereal. It’s an awesome accolade.
The Green Bay Packers understand what makes a good quarterback. Favre was one of their best and constantly made NFL history for the franchise. He holds multiple NFL records but one of the most impressive is that he had 371 consecutive starts for the Packers. This is the most in NFL history. It’s impressive because it shows how consistent and durable he was during his peak.
While Favre made his name with the Packers, he also played for a few other franchises. His departure from Wisconsin was acrimonious and he moved to the New York Jets. He then played for the Minnesota Vikings. Finally, he retired as a three-time NFL MVP and a Super Bowl winner. The number of accolades he has to his name is incredible and culminated in a Hall of Fame induction.
Hockey legend Howe made history many times on the ice. The main reason he makes this list is because of his insanely long career. He played so long he was even a teammate of his own sons. He spent 25 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings before playing for several other teams. Meanwhile, he was a very prolific scorer and one of the NHL’s most iconic and important figures.
If Wayne Gretzky thinks that he’s one of the greatest of all time, then that should be good enough for regular mortals. He won the Stanley Cup four times and was also a league MVP on three occasions. Furthermore, he set numerous scoring records over the years. Yet it was his longevity that captured the imagination of hockey fans from all around the world.
Nicola Adams was the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing. Katie Taylor and Shields quickly followed in her footsteps at the same games in London. However, Shields made history when she followed up with a second gold medal in Rio De Janeiro. This made her the only American boxer ever to achieve this. Then she turned professional and set even more records.
Shields is quite simply a destroyer. First of all, she became the undisputed middleweight titleholder when she united all the major belts in the division. Then, she became the first boxer in history to repeat the feat in a second weight class. She’s also the quickest boxer to win titles in three divisions. Now she is competing in MMA and it looks like she will take over the combat sports world.
Phelps holds some of the most impressive Olympic records out there. First of all, he has more medals than any other Olympian in history. Then, add in the fact that he has more gold medals than anybody else and it’s clear why people regard him as the greatest of all time. It’s true that his sport has more categories than most others, but his dominance over other swimmers is special.
The Maryland native possessed the perfect physique for a swimmer. In fact, he was ungainly outside of the pool because of his long arms and torso. But inside, he was sublime. As well as holding medals, Phelps also has speed records for many of his races. There was nobody like him before he came along. Nor is there likely to be anybody else who is better than him in the near future.
Usman is one of the most dominant UFC fighters on the roster. The welterweight champion uses his wrestling base to profound effect. “The Nightmare suffocates his opponents as he grinds them down and wears them out. Meanwhile, he’s been knocking his foes out cold recently. But he makes this list because he became the UFC’s first African-born champion. This was a momentous achievement.
Hailing from Nigeria, Usman moved from the West African nation as a child. The continent as an entity has over 1.2 billion people. It’s crazy that it took so long for the UFC to have its first champion from the region. Usman defeated Tyron Woodley in a dominant fashion to claim the belt. Furthermore, many believe we could be looking at the greatest MMA welterweight of all time.
It’s a travesty Marino never won a Super Bowl. The Miami Dolphins legend is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and had a distinguished career. Only eight quarterbacks in history passed for more than 5,000 yards before 2021. Marino was the first to break this mark when he made history in 1984. Nobody else came close for almost 25 years as he was supreme.
Meanwhile, he won the NFL MVP award the same year. It was obvious that he was going to win because of his astounding achievement. The nine-time Pro Bower was also the Offensive Player of the Year. Unfortunately, his franchise was never good enough to win a championship. While they came close, Marino ultimately missed out on the most coveted prize of them all: a ring.
There have been dozens of UFC champions when including all weight classes. But only one man can lay claim to being the first. This was Royce Gracie, a leading member of the famous Gracie Brazilian jiu-jitsu family. When the UFC first materialized it was a wacky freakshow. There were proponents of various styles and one athlete even fought with a single glove on his hand.
However, Gracie’s martial art provided a systematic and effective way of defeating his opponents. It revolutionized the martial arts space. Now BJJ is one of the most popular sports on the planet and there are many gyms across the world. It’s also a foundation art for contemporary MMA fighters. This is because they need to understand how to defend against it even if they don’t use it aggressively.
The likes of Davina Patrick and Shawna Robinson became Nascar racing stars because they were women in a man’s world. However, Guthrie paved the way for these drivers because she was the first woman to compete at Daytona and in the Indy 500. As pioneers go, Guthrie is up there with some of the most significant in the sporting world. Stock car racing is traditionally one of the most conservative environments in the U.S.
Unfortunately, this is also what brought her career to a premature end. She struggled to maintain endorsements and sponsorships from donors. But this didn’t end her relationship with racing or driving. Guthrie became a women’s rights advocate and supported many female drivers. While there are still a lot of problems in NASCAR, Guthrie isn’t afraid to speak out about them.
Rogers isn’t the most famous American athlete on this list. But he made history in 2013 when he became the first openly gay male athlete in any U.S. major league. The soccer star played for L.A. Galaxy where he won the respect of the world. The discrepancy between male and female LGBTQ soccer players is crazy. Many female athletes are out but their male equivalents refuse to do so.
The U.S. international star showed bravery by revealing his true self to the world. This was an important step in normalizing it for other athletes. In short, if more male athletes come out, then it will no longer be a news story. At the end of the day, sports stars want fans to judge them for their athletic achievements. Rogers ensured that the gateway for many of his counterparts was finally open.
Biles has revitalized gymnastics in the U.S. with her incredible record on the beam. It was the Olympic champion’s destiny to be great. Her grandparents homeschooled her to maximize her training time. In short, their plan worked perfectly. Sports analysts regard her as the greatest American gymnast ever and arguably one of the world’s best too. It’s phenomenal considering her upbringing.
Firstly, Biles has more World medals than any other gymnast in history, male or female. Meanwhile, she won four gold medals at the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Furthermore, she’s showing that age is just a number. The lifespan of a gymnast’s career is traditionally very short. But at the age of 24, she was at peak skills.
The most recognizable East Asian athlete on the planet, Pacquaio is a beast. The Filipino boxer is the only boxer in history to win titles in eight different weight classes. This is a freakish achievement because of the toll it must have taken upon his body. Meanwhile, he also held titles across four decades, also a unique record. Pacquaio is a ferocious power puncher and beat the best of the best.
As well as winning in the ring, Pacquaio also wins in life. He is a member of the Filipino parliament and is a potential presidential candidate. ‘The Pacman’ continues fighting into his forties and shows no signs of slowing down. The likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Rickey Hatton all fell victim to his right hand. Also, he was a part of the biggest pay-per-view ever when he fought Floyd Mayweather.
The fastest man on the planet has made history nearly countless times. Bolt hails from Jamaica, where he earned deity status for his wins. The sprinter is also incredibly popular because of his personality. He loves to party as much as he loves to run. Furthermore, he famously ate McDonald’s the entire time he spent in London. In short, he trusted the fast-food chain because it is the same everywhere.
Meanwhile, he holds world records in numerous sprint categories and is an eight-time Olympic gold medalist. This makes him one of the most successful Olympians on the planet. Also, his celebration became iconic. Bolt was a freak athlete who dominated the sport for over a decade. Finally, he retired as the greatest of all time. He also never tested positive for any banned substances which is the scourge of athletics.
McGregor is one of the most controversial people in the world of combat sports. The Irishman rocked the UFC with his meteoric rise to the top of the sport. In doing so, he set numerous pay-per-view records. However, he’s on this list because he became the first UFC champion to hold two belts at the same time. This was a major achievement, even if the UFC helped him to do so.
Firstly, he claimed the featherweight crown after knocking Jose Aldo out in 14 seconds. Then, he crushed Eddie Alvarez in a career-defining performance to win the lightweight title. McGregor wasn’t the first UFC fighter to win titles in different weight divisions. But to do so at the same was a once-in-a-lifetime achievement for ‘The Notorious.’ Nobody else can claim to be the first after this.
If there is one thing Mayweather loves more than anything else on this planet, it’s money. That even became his nickname because he was so efficient at maximizing his earnings. The American boxer went 50-0 throughout his professional career. He was a brilliant defensive stylist but was also an expert at fighting opponents when they were vulnerable. A case in point was his match-up against a faded Manny Pacquaio.
However, Mayweather made history when he became boxing’s first billionaire fighter. This occurred after he defeated UFC fighter Conor McGregor. While Mayweather has many personal flaws, there is no doubt that he is a superb businessman. In many sports, executives exploit their athletes. But ‘Money’ ensured that he was in control of his own path. Now his bank balance is more than healthy.
Nassib made waves in 2021 when he became the first gay player to come out in NFL history. This was a massive news story because football is such a macho sport. There is no doubt that many gay athletes have played in the league but none of them felt comfortable enough to come out. They were worried that their own teammates and front offices would turn on them. Meanwhile, there was also the fear of inevitable fan abuse.
However, Nassib decided that he was tired of hiding who he was. The Las Vegas Raiders’ star announced in a low-key manner. Then, the NFL issued a statement in support of the defensive end. Most fans had nothing but respect for the young man because it took guts to say those words. Some one-of-a-kind occurrences change things for the better forever. Let’s hope that this is one of them.